December 2013 Archives

It's been a busy year but our ever vigilant staff have still managed to do some reading, viewing and listening. Here are their favorite things from 2013. Once again, it's an interesting and eclectic list and long one. You might want to settle in.


Kate's List

Fiction

Click for availability and more information Crazy Rich Asians, by Kevin Kwan
 






Click for availability and more information The Expats, by Chris Pavone
 






Click for availability and more information Night Film, by Marisha Pessl
 






Click for availability and more information The Other Typist, by Suzanne Rindell






Cookbooks

 

Click for availability and more information Balaboosta: bold Mediterranean recipes to feed the people you love , by Einat Admony with Joel Chasnoff and Dhale Pomes
 






Click for availability and more information Keepers: two home cooks share their tried-and-true weeknight recipes and the secrets to happiness in the kitchen , by Kathy Brennan & Caroline Campion
 





Click for availability and more information Grand Forks: A history of American dining in 128 reviews , by Marilyn Hagerty





Barbara's Pick


 

Click for availability and more information Hologram for the King, by Dave Eggers
 
I was already a Dave Eggers fan after reading What is the What and Zeitoun, the first a fictional account of the lost boys of Sudan and the second a non-fiction account of one man's struggle against injustice following Hurricane Katrina's devastation of New Orleans. Hologram for the King is powerful existential fiction that reminded me most of Waiting for Godot. It's a moving account of the helpless efforts of a US businessman who waits every day in an appointed tent to sell his product to a growing Saudi Arabian city. The deal would help him stave off personal bankruptcy and pay for his daughters tuition during the Great Recession. 


Karen's List

Most of the books I've read and would recommend for 2013 have already ended up on other "Best of..." lists. They include:


Click for availability and more information Life After Life, by Kate Atkinson
 





Click for availability and more information The Signature of All Things, by Elizabeth Gilbert
 





Click for availability and more information The Lowland, by Jhumpa Lahiri
 






Click for availability and more information Love, Dishonor, Marry, Die, Cherish, Perish , by David Rakoff
 





A couple of others that may not have been on such lists are:

Click for availability and more information Blue Plate Special: an autobiography of my appetites, by Kate Christensen
 
The author of a number of books of fiction takes an honest look at her own life and appetites.


Click for availability and more information Coming Clean, by Kimberly Rae Miller
 
The story of surviving a childhood with two extreme hoarders as her parents. 




Robin's List


Click for availability and more information The Husband's Secret, by Liane Moriarty
 





Click for availability and more information Orphan Train, by Christina Baker Kline
 





Click for availability and more information The Silent Wife, by A.S.A. Harrison
 





Click for availability and more information The Son, by Philipp Meyer






David's List


Click for availability and more information Chicago Moves, by Gaudete Brass Quintet
 
The Gaudete Brass Quintet performs consistently intriguing, often fascinating works by seven contemporary American composers. 


Click for availability and more information Legends Live: Dizzy Gillespie Quintet, by Dizzy Gillespie Quintet
 
Maestro Gillespie at the top of his game leads a quintet featuring exemplary work by pianist Lalo Schifrin, drummer Mel Lewis, and saxophonist Leo Wright. Recorded in Frankfurt in 1961.

Click for availability and more information Piano Concerto o. 1: "Pìobaireachd"; Piano concerto no. 2 : "Hindustani", by Erik Chisholm
 
Both of Scottish composer Erik Chisholm (1904-1965)'s piano concerti are here. The first is redolent of Scotland, the locale which inspired its creation. Pianist Danny Driver and the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra perform this lovely and accessible music with sensitivity and brio. The second work is in a more challenging harmonic idiom, deriving from Indian raga forms, but played with no less commitment.

Click for availability and more information Überjam Deux , by John Scofield
 
Jazz guitarist John Scofield is at his funkiest here. 





Nancy's Pick


Click for availability and more information Diary of a Provincial Lady, by E.M. Delafield
 
Life in a small English village with two children, a husband, a governess/nursery maid, and a not very stable staff, is portrayed in a rather tongue-in-cheek manner, using asides to herself, in this fictional diary. Her comments on herself and her friends and neighbors (not always the same) are lighthearted and amusing. 


Stephen's List


Books

Click for availability and more information The Goldfinch, by Donna Tartt
 
Not a very original choice, I know but this is a remarkable novel. It's nearly 800 pages but reads like its 200; there's never a dull moment. Let's hope nobody tries to make it into a movie. 



Click for availability and more information Punk 45: the singles cover art of punk 1975-80 , edited by Jon Savage and Stuart Baker
 
There has been quite a few books about the history of punk rock published in the past few years. This one is the best. It features the original full-size singles cover art of hundreds of punk bands with details and commentary, plus interviews with the tastemakers of the time, Richard Hell, Geoff Travis (Rough Trade Records), Peter Saville (Factory Records). It's beautifully designed, like many of the records discussed within. A great coffee table book for the aging hipster. To coincide in with the book, Soul Jazz Records has also released this, the first in a series. 


CD's


Click for availability and more information Light Up Gold, by Parquet Courts
 
I especially love how Parquet Courts seem to be in a such a hurry. Light Up Gold features 15 songs in 33 minutes. The band careens their way through the post-punk landscape, throwing nods at The Fall, The Undertones and The Fire Engines among others. With barely a gap between songs, the record leaves you smiling and little bit breathless.

Click for availability and more information First Issue, by Public Image, Ltd
 
A very welcome and overdue re-issue of Public Image Ltd. debut record, which many credit as the first post-punk record.Finished with the circus that was the Sex Pistols, John Lydon gathered up an incredible band and released this record full of abrasive, angry and, at times, funky songs. Among the first records to incorporate dub into their sound, "First Issue" changed the playing field for all that came after. This still sounds as great as the first time I heard it.

Click for availability and more information World Psychedelic Classics 5: Who Is William Onyeabor?, by William Onyeabor
 
This is the first time a record label has successfully licensed the music of William Onyeabor, the mysterious widely bootlegged Nigerian artist/producer. A fascinating person, Onyeabor released eight much sought after lp's between 1977 and 1985. This collection features songs from these records. The songs, mostly extended call-and-response disco-funk jams driven by the space-age sound of synthesizers and drum machines are filtered through Onyeabor's unique worldview and are like nothing you've heard before.



Michele's List


Non-Fiction


Click for availability and more information Going Clear: Scientology, Hollywood, and the prison of belief , by Lawrence Wright





Fiction



Click for availability and more information Light Years, by James Salter





DVD's
 



Click for availability and more information The Bling Ring, directed by Sofia Coppola
 






Click for availability and more information Hannah Arendt, directed by Margarethe von Trotta
 





Carl's Pick's


When I looked back at the books and DVDs I reviewed for the Staff Picks, I was amazed at how many I really enjoyed this year. It's not like I intentionally picked out most of these titles: it was more just "dumb luck". I tried to look at one DVD and one book each month. I read "Mick Jagger" by Philip Norman and "Life" by Keith Richards with James Fox. Although "Mick Jaggar" was interesting, "Life" was far and away the better book. It was more honest, delving into real life of the Rolling Stones. I believe the book was more honest about the relationships between the group and their entourage. "Life" is about 3 times longer, but well worth the time investment. Selecting my favorite DVD was undoubtedly the hardest decision! I viewed "Forgotten", "Cosmopolis", "Lawless" and "Looper". I also looked at "Rubber", the story of an abandoned tire that terrorizes a town. You can put this right up there with "The Attack of the Killer Tomatoes" and "Surf Nazis Must Die". (I'm sure it has its own cult following!) The DVD that really blew me away was "War Horse". It's the story of a boy who is separated from his horse at the beginning of World War I. The horse is requisitioned for the British military. Through circumstance, he ends up working for the Germans until he is freed to try and find his way home. I could almost read the horse's mind as he encountered each new adventure. The plot was strong, the special effects were mind-boggling and the acting was superb.


Everett's List


Graphic Novels


Click for availability and more information The Children of Palomar, by Gilbert Hernandez
 
I have never been the biggest fan of Hernandez's work, but this year he hit a grand slam with three excellent graphic novels, The Children of Palomar, Julio's Day and Marble Season. All are imbedded with his usual spirited doses of magical realism, but he avoids the excesses of past work with focused, humane and relatable stories. 


CD's


Click for availability and more information Ensemble Pearl, by Ensemble Pearl
 
Past meetings between like-minded Japanese sludge/noise rockers Boris and drone metalers Sunn O))) have sounded like a too-clean mix of their respective elements, but Ensemble Pearl transcend those boundaries. Charging forward like an unholy concoction of Glenn Branca, Ennio Morricone and Morton Feldman, the Ensemble keeps things varied and grounded within their low frequency sound world

Click for availability and more information The Art of David Tudor, by David Tudor
 
The New World Records label has done an incredible job of late by compiling the classic works of American avant garde composers. This collection of Tudor's recordings stands tall along with the label's Alvin Curran and M.E.V. retrospectives. Tudor is well known for his collaborations with John Cage, but his early pre-computer work with electronics is still cutting edge, freely venturing into fields of musique concrete, systems music, noise and improvisation. 


DVD's


Click for availability and more information Only God Forgives, directed by Nicolas Winding Refn

If you were expecting Drive Part Two, then don't even bother watching this. But if you are a fan of director Nicolas Winding Refn, then you will find much to love here. While Valhalla Rising was Refn's take on the Viking movie genre, Only God Forgives is his homage to Asian action cinema- except he left the action by the wayside. The anticlimactic fight scene between Ryan Gosling and the "devil" is a highlight of a film which defies expectations at every turn, instead focusing on atmosphere and a strong oedipal theme.

Click for availability and more information Upstream Color, directed by Shane Carruth
 
Director Shane Carruth is known for films which tackle "big ideas," but with Upstream Color he truly outdoes himself. For the first thirty minutes or so you may struggle to understand exactly what it is you are watching, but by all means stick it out until the end. You are essentially following the peculiar life cycle of a parasitic organism, but along the way Carruth exploits our own modern anxieties about food tampering, identity theft, medicine, Wall Street high jinks and basic human connection. He does not succeed 100% of the time, but rarely do directors take on this much and produce such mind-blowing results. 


Ed's List


Books


Click for availability and more information Archie Meets Nero Wolfe: a prequel to Rex Stout's Nero Wolfe mysteries , by Robert Goldsborough
 






Click for availability and more information Ask Not: Nathan Heller Mystery , by Max Collins
 






Click for availability and more information The Beatles: all these years, by Mark Lewisohn






Click for availability and more information Complex 90: a Mike Hammer mystery, by Mickey Spillane and Max Allan Collins
 






Click for availability and more information The Long War: a Long Earth novel , by Terry Pratchett and Stephen Baxter
 






Click for availability and more information The Ocean at the End of the Lane , by Neil Gaiman
 






Click for availability and more information The Reason I Jump: the inner voice of a thirteen-year-old boy with autism , by Naoki Higashida
 





Click for availability and more information Sylo, by D.J. MacHale
 





Click for availability and more information Harlan Ellison's 7 Against Chaos, by Harlan Ellison & Paul Chadwick
 






Click for availability and more information The Simon & Kirby Library: Science Fiction , by Joe Simon and Jack Kirby





CD's
 


Click for availability and more information Another Self Portrait: (1969-1971), by Bob Dylan
 






Click for availability and more information Live at the BBC, volume 2, On Air , by The Beatles
 






Click for availability and more information Magna Carta Holy Grail, by Jay Z
 






Click for availability and more information Wise Up Ghost: and other songs, by Elvis Costello and the Roots
 




Click for availability and more information Yeezus, by Kanye West
 





DVD's


Click for availability and more information Seconds, directed by John Frankenheimer
 






Click for availability and more information The Uninvited, directed by Lewis Allen
 






Click for availability and more information White Zombie, directed by Victor Halperin
 






Roy's Picks




Click for availability and more information The English Girl: a Gabriel Allon novel , by Daniel Silva
 
The latest in the Silva's political thriller series featuring Gabriel Allon, The English Girl, released in 2013, shows why Silva's books have become so widely read. After the disappearance of an English girl vacationing on the island of Corsica, Allon becomes involved in the attempt to find her before she is killed. As usual with Allon, he becomes involved in political intrigues and the reader is given yet another entertaining and interesting tale of adventure from Daniel Silva. For those who have not read a book in the Gabriel Allon series, perhaps it is best to start with Silva's first Allon book, The Kill Artist. Silva often refers to other adventures Allon has had in his books and that adds to the fun and enjoyment of his writing.



Click for availability and more information The Genius of Venice: Piazza San Marco and the making of the Republic , by Dial Parrott
 
For anyone who has been to the intriguingly wonderful city of Venice or has any interest in going, this terrifically interesting book is a real treat. Filled with beautiful photographs, Parrott traces the origins of Venice, which is a remarkable tale unto itself. Early settlers and builders of Venice, determined to create a city safe from invasion of nomadic tribes from the mainland, created an incredible city on islands in a lagoon. The text gives a history as to how this unique city surrounded by water became a world power in medieval times. The Genius of Venice is a great 2013 book.


Shredderman: Secret Identity

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Click for availability and more information Shredderman: Secret Identity, by Wendelin Van Draanen
 
Fifth-grader Nolan Byrd, tired of being called names by the class bully, creates a secret identity---Shredderman---and is determined to turn the tables on Bubby Bixby!
-Deirdre

The Ravenmaster's Secret

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Click for availability and more information The Ravenmaster's Secret, by Elvira Woodruff
 
It's 1735. Eleven-year old Forrest Harper's life inside the Tower of London consists of three ways to pass the time: chores, chores, and more chores. His only friends are the spirited ravens he tends with his father. So when vicious Scottish Rebels are captured, Forrest can't wait to prove himself by standing guard. If only Forrest's prisoner hadn't turned out to be Maddy, the daughter of a Scottish noble held prisoner. And if only Maddy wasn't about to be executed. . . .Now, Forrest must choose between committing treason, or watching an innocent friend hang.
-Deirdre

The Charm School

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Click for availability and more information The Charm School, by Nelson Demille
 
One of Nelson Demille's earlier books, The Charm School is a wonderful example of why he has remained a very widely-read author noted for books with intriguing plots for years. Set during the days of the Cold War, The Charm School offers a terrifically interesting plot. Briefly, while traveling through Russia in a Pontiac Grand Am, American Gregory Fisher quite accidentally and briefly stumbles across Major Jack Dodson in a pine forest. Dodson tells Fisher the seemingly outlandish tale that he has just escaped from a type of prisoner of war camp run by the Russians called Mrs. Ivanovs's Charm School. His fellow American prisoners at the "school" were all taken by the North Vietnamese during the United States involvement in the Vietnam War and shipped to Russia. When Fisher gets to Moscow, he contacts the American Embassy and tells Lisa Rhodes, a consular officer at the embassy this strange story. Rhodes subsequently enlists another embassy officer, Sam Hollis, to help verify the strange possibility that there indeed might be such a prison camp.

The Charm School takes off as Rhodes and Hollis travel around Russia trying to uncover the truth, if any, to this tale. A great feature supposedly of this school is that is serves as a training ground for Russian agents to be placed in America as spies. The school trains them to acquire true American traits and characteristics. Hollis and Rhodes face dangerous situations and tough dealings with the Cold War era Russian military officers as they race to find the truth.

Demille's writing makes The Charm School fun and gripping reading. He captures the Cold War mentality and tensions between the Russians and Americans quite strongly. When details of the school do emerge, the story becomes all the more entertaining. This is a great read and highly recommended.
-Roy

About this Archive

This page is an archive of entries from December 2013 listed from newest to oldest.

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